The United States on Monday imposed fresh Iran-related sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic's oil sector, including the Iranian Ministry of Petroleum, in Washington's latest action to increase pressure on Tehran.
The US Treasury Department in a statement said it was slapping sanctions on key actors in Iran's oil sector for supporting the Quds Force, the elite foreign paramilitary and espionage arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps blacklisted by the United States.
"The regime in Iran uses the petroleum sector to fund the destabilizing activities of the IRGC-QF," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have soared since Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018 from the Iran nuclear deal struck by his predecessor President Barack Obama and began reimposing US sanctions that had been eased under the accord.
The minister of petroleum, the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), and National Iranian Tanker Company were also blacklisted alongside other individuals and entities in Washington's move on Monday, which freezes any US assets of those blacklisted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.
The Treasury also imposed sanctions on Mahmoud Madanipour and United Arab Emirates-based Mobin International Limited, accusing them of entering into an agreement with Venezuelan state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) to ship gasoline obtained from NIOC to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
The British-based companies of Madanipour, Mobin Holding Limited, and Oman Fuel Trading Ltd were also blacklisted.
Mobin International and Oman Fuel have said they were the owners of the cargo aboard several tankers confiscated by US authorities in August.
The US Justice Department said the cargo was destined for Venezuela, whose oil industry is also under US sanctions, but the companies denied in court filings that Venezuela was the destination.
Iran has sent two other flotillas carrying fuel to gasoline-short Venezuela, and they entered the South American country without US interference.